This afternoon, I was sitting in my office and heard Starry Girl down the hall announce that it was Free Slurpee Day. My throat got tight, my skin started to burn and I went into a deep crimson blush. I can't hear the phrase "Free Slurpee" without having a serious psycho-traumatic response.
You see, when I was in the second grade, some older kids at school told me that if I took my souvenir Willie Mays Slurpee cup back to the store, they would refill it for free. I hopped on my Schwinn and headed to one of my favorite places in the whole world: 7-11.
I handed the clerk at 7-11 my plastic cup and asked him to fill it with cherry flavored Slurpee. In the early 70's, the Slurpee machines were behind the counter, but I guess 7-11 has since figured out they can save millions in labor costs and reduce their work force by making Slurpees self serve. He handed me the Slurpee and said, "79 cents" (or whatever), and I felt my stomach drop, my knees go weak and tears start to build behind my lids. "Isn't it for free?" I asked. "Free?" the guy scoffed. He took my Slurpee, dumped it in the garbage can and handed me back my cup. The memory still stings.
So, today, I had to find out for myself if this time it was true: Free Slurpees. I walked to the nearest 7-11 and there were throngs of people filling up little 7.11 oz. Slurpee cups which I assumed were free. But I was still so traumatized that I was afraid to risk it. I grabbed a regular cup and filled it up and went and paid full price. But as I walked back to the office, I was thinking, "Dang! Dang it! Why couldn't I take a free Slurpee? I couldn't even ask if they were free. I'm a coward!"
After work, I spent the evening doing some volunteer work. I had some people in my car and I told them, very sagely, "You know, it's free Slurpee day." And I stopped at every 7-11 we passed to fill up on free Slurpees. I tried Whoo-Hoo Vanilla, and Cherry, and Pina Colada... there were so many flavors to choose from (I resisted Full Throttle because frankly I imagine that tastes like engine grease).
Store after store. Free Slurpee after free Slurpee. Call it my revenge if you will, or perhaps immersive therapy. Regardless, I will never fear Free Slurpees again!
For those who missed Free Slurpee Day, mark July 11 on your calendar (7/11). Each year, the company celebrates its birthday with free Slurpees - trust me on that. This year was their 80th year!